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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Thursday, December 15, 2011

editing and other never-ending endeavors...

How do you decide you’ve edited enough?  I just got the electronic proof of my book back and have been going through it for a day and a half. I’ve found many typos, misspelled words, formatting mistakes but those don’t bother me. What bothers me is that I don’t like the book anymore! I’ve noticed repetition of words, excess words, things which two weeks ago didn’t bother me. Why now at the final hour?

Two weeks ago I decided to re-edit the entire manuscript instead of doing the eighty free text changes. How can it be that in that two weeks my entire vision has changed? I want to start over, add things, re-write, but at the same time I’m entirely sick of the story and never want to see it again—and yet this is the first of three and it must be the best it can be. (didn’t intend that little rhyme) Has anyone out there experienced this syndrome? Because that’s what I’m calling it, even though I’m terrified that I DO need to re-write the entire book. ( It makes me tired even thinking about it)

For now I’m taking a day off, doing yoga, meditating, taking a walk in the woods. I’m very much hoping that when I revisit the book things won’t look as bad. But what if they do? Then what? My muse has decided to take a vacation in the Bahamas and won’t be back until after Christmas…(or let’s say I’m hoping she comes back at all—I’ve kind of used up her goodwill) without her by my shoulder I will be SOL…

Since I had planned to have the book published in early January I’ve already started my marketing push but I doubt anyone’s been listening anyway, so that’s not a problem—Has this happened to anyone else? What did you do?


  1. I can't read a page Of my own writing without changing five or six things the next day. But there comes a time when , if you're honest, all you're doing is making your story different, not better. Perfection is a ridiculous concept that has no place in our consideration; your novel will be as good as you can make it at the time you finish, or at least move on to other projects. Even published authors have trouble leaving their work alone, which is why they often come out with revised editions. I've little doubt that your story will sparkle for your readers just as it did when you first imagined it.

  2. Hi Nikki. I wonder if I'll feel like you do now when I hit the "last edit" of my ms. (Probably.) I think stepping away for a few days (at least) will give you some perspective, but I agree with what Stephen said: "Even published authors have trouble leaving their work alone..."

    Forgive me if you've shared this before and I missed it, but do you have a critique partner who gives a grounded perspective? (Would that be your Bahamas muse?) Good luck and keep us posted!

  3. thanks Stephen and Tracy--way too late for a critique group, I'm afraid...It has been edited and edited and edited, professionally and by me numerous times...I would rather give up the whole thing than go through that...my muse is really my muse--the little voice that inspires my writing so she's no help right now! Thanks for what you said Stephen about perfectionism being a ridiculous concept...think I need to take a break for a day or two as you both suggested...

  4. Yes, break. I haven't published fiction yet, but have noticed with many things I've written, that I might think it's good and done, then comes a time when I think it's worthless junk. But later, usually years later, I pick it up and look at it and see it for what it really was, usually good, not perfect, but also other things, perhaps beautiful, inspiring, luminous, or simply true.
    Dean Wesley Smith has some interesting things to say about revising.http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4398
    One is that if you are editing (which he doesn't really recommend), you have to stay in creative voice, not in critical voice. Critical voice always has something to say about what's wrong with a piece, but creative voice gets squashed in the process, which degrades rather than improves the writing. I don't know if that's what's happening with you. I've been kind of at that point for a couple months now, occasionally working on it, for the better, I think, but I don't know when it will be time to move on . . .

  5. Thanks so much, Rachel--what you said about critical voice vs. creative voice is something I've never heard...and it makes a lot of sense--we can ruin our writing by too much re-working, just as a painting gets turned into mud...I will definitely look up Dean Wesley Smith. I appreciate your input!

  6. Nikki, the only advice I would give is when you think you've finished, leave it to ferment for a month or two; allow your mind to cool down. Then read it with the eyes of a stranger. Yes, you can overwrite, but possibly you're less likely to do that if you give yourself and the novel time to breathe before hand. My twopenny's worth : )

  7. Hi Nikki-
    I would say that maybe edits are never really done! We are always trying to improve our work. I think taking a little break from it is the best thing right now- then you can look at it with fresh eyes. You may feel better- or you may find that there really are a few words you want to delete or change. Typose and misspellings are easy to fix- and quite rewarding. I have edited my book- 100s of times and just now rereading I have found two words that my co-author and I are quite fond of an overused- we had to chop some of them out. We are amazed that we never noticed these words before!

    Best of luck! Don't be too hard on yourself. Always best to revisit your work another day.


  8. Thanks Mike and Jess--what I've decided, since I'm in the middle of the process with Createspace, is to change what I can (overused words and typos etc) up to the 80 text changes I get for free--then in a few weeks when I receive the revised proof I can hopefully look at it with fresh eyes...if either of you aren't familiar with Dean Wesley Smith, mentioned above in a comment I would recommend his articles! He has a very different take on the 'first' novel and over editing...I found him very enlightening.